June 17, 2005,
First, a little old business. In a column last week, I spoke of William F. Schultz, the charmer from Amnesty International who compared our facility at Guantanamo Bay to the Gulag. He’d protested that the White House should not damn Amnesty’s judgment on Gitmo, while citing its findings on North Korea, Saddam’s Iraq, etc. I agreed with him. I wouldn’t cite Amnesty International even if it alleged that the sun rises in the east.
I heard from the Great One, Rush Limbaugh, who said he’d had a lefty caller making the same point Schultz’s point. “You guys accept those other things that Amnesty says. Why don’t you accept this?” Rush parried with, “Well, I think the burden’s on you.” (I’m paraphrasing.) “If you believe Amnesty on Gitmo, why don’t you and your pals on the left believe it about Saddam Hussein? His Iraq was no kite-flying paradise, you know.” (Recall the Michael Moore image.)
A very good point. Rush went on to say that Amnesty’s America bashing might relate to fundraising: They need to satisfy big donors the Soroses who want ideological bang for their buck.
I’m still a little uneasy about citing Amnesty, ever, simply because of its political nonsense. It seems to want credit for “evenhandedness,” and this means grouping the United States with genuine human-rights violators. It’s far wiser to rely on Freedom House, which actually knows the difference between Guantanamo Bay and the Gulag.
By the way, this Gitmo/Gulag stuff came at a particularly bad time for me, as I was reading re-reading Natan Sharansky’s very great memoir, Fear No Evil. (It first appeared in 1988.) Sharansky spent nine years in the Gulag the real one and over 400 of those days were in punishment cells. What he had to suffer was almost inconceivably depraved. To read Sharansky, while Amnesty International is squawking about Guantanamo, is enough to make you hate Amnesty for the rest of your life.
As I think I might have mentioned in a previous column, I talked with Sharansky when he was in New York, and have an interview-essay in the new NR. You may enjoy reading it, as he has many, many interesting things to say. And he gives the lie to the idea that no greatness can be found in a small, mean age.
Sometimes I ask the question, “Is the mainstream press as bad as I think it is? And is CNN as awful as I remember, and fear?” It’s been years since I watched television, but I’m exposed to it every now and then, particularly in airport terminals. And last weekend, I spent quite a bit of time in airport terminals. And you know what? You can’t escape CNN. There are monitors all over the place blaring them and by the time you move far enough away from one monitor, you are assaulted by the next one. It is 1984-ish.
Anyway, I listened to them for about an hour, cumulatively, and what I heard seemed like a right-wing parody of what CNN might be like. Almost every utterance was shot through with political bias. There were endless Dems on, with just about no Republican rebuttal. Harry Reid was treated like a beloved newborn babe.
I can’t possibly believe Fox is as bad, no matter what Howard Dean says. But then, I’ve never made an honest living, so what would I know?
If I could pay more for an airline ticket, to be free of CNN, I would. And if there were a petition drive, to be rid of CNN or any television in airports, I would participate in it. Actually, I don’t want to deprive others of CNN, or any other network; I just think there ought to be a refuge from it, somewhere. Sort of like a no-smoking section.
I meant to make a point earlier, about Amnesty International or rather related to them. In any case, that episode reminded me of something.
One night, Reagan was holding a press conference, and someone asked him about school prayer. He did what he usually did: He cited opinion polls, saying an overwhelming majority favored the restoration of school prayer. But this particular reporter was ready for him: She countered with, “But polls say that people favor legal abortion, too, and you oppose that.”
She had him there. An important lesson: Don’t cite opinion polls, unless you want them cited against you. Reagan could only swallow, flounder, and move on. (He was not always the Great Communicator, you remember.)
Before you write in: I know that public opinion about abortion is not as clear-cut as the lady reporter suggested. I know, I know have written on the subject for years. Thank you. Don’t teach your grandmother to suck eggs. (Remember that one?)
You may remember this: Couple of years ago, Bill Clinton was talking to some high-schoolers, and he said he wished he were 18 again, even if it meant he wouldn’t “get to be president.” I said I thought that kind of thinking should be disguised: The presidency should be a matter of public service, of some calling beyond self. I’m not naive, but really can’t you at least maintain appearances?
I thought of this when reading excerpts from an interview with Madeleine Albright. Asked if she missed being secretary of state, she said, “Anybody who says they’re glad when these big jobs are over is lying.” (I don’t think that’s necessarily so, but I think it’s mainly so.) Asked whether she might work for another President Clinton Hillary she said, “I think she would be a great president. She’s a very good friend, and I would do whatever I was asked. Mostly, you don’t get to do this again.”
Again, I’m not naive. But I had to wince: “get to.” So many of the Clintonistas struck me as chasers after power without purpose.
I can’t believe I asked Clinton, above, to practice more deception. That’s like asking me to have another scoop of ice cream.
Got a mailing, the other day, from a group called Live Liberal. Its slogan is, “Less about me, more about we.” Nice, sort of. With the mailing came a button, which said, “Liberals wage peace.” So that’s what they do! Nice job in Vietnam, guys lot of peace those people had, after we abandoned the South. Liberal peace, of course, is the peace of the grave or, worse, the concentration/reeducation camp.
A sheet within this mailing said, “We lost it. Help us get it back. Liberal is a good word.”
Yes, indeed, it is or was. And it wasn’t the Right that took it. That’s for sure.
(I know you don’t want to hear my exegesis on the term “liberal” for the 750th time.)
My friend Jack Jolis, who lives in Belgium, alerted me to a hilarious item in the International Herald Tribune, which is the New York Times abroad. It said, “Zuma’s political appeal is strongest precisely where Mbeki’s is weakest, in his party’s left wing and in the two left-leaning groups the South African Communist Party and the trade-union movement that have allied themselves with the African National Congress.”
So the Communist party is left-leaning? Who knew!
You recall that, after Castro’s March 2003 crackdown, the EU imposed some sanctions on the regime; and you recall that, earlier this year, the EU suspended those sanctions, till June. Well, now it’s June and the EU has given Castro another year’s reprieve. Very sad. The stalwarts, such as the Czech Republic and Poland, will continue to deal with dissidents on the island. The others will do nothing to perturb the dictator. Meghan Clyne of the New York Sun has the dismaying details here.
Look, as far as I’m concerned, it was a semi-miracle that the EU imposed sanctions at all. But that was when Aznar led Spain, and then Zapatero took over, and then . . . Appeasement City. Actually, in Zapatero’s case, I believe, not so much appeasement as solidarity.
Is that too McCarthyite for you? Then study the issue harder.
Try a little Rebecca Mead, from The New Yorker:
But the quiet blandness of Mrs. Bush has always excited the curiosity of her husband’s detractors, largely because of its implausibility. That she voted for Eugene McCarthy in 1968 while her future husband was dodging more strenuous military service by joining the National Guard seems to bespeak a now submerged radicalism.
Those sentences are strange on several levels, but consider the “dodging more strenuous military service by joining the National Guard.” Oh, how I’d love to see Rebecca Mead pilot one of those fighter jets! Watch them turns, Becky!
And which would she consider better: joining the Guard or fleeing to Canada?
And have you noticed that the word “dodge,” just now, has started to be applied to service in the Guard?
One of the shabbiest things Bill Clinton ever said was in his speech to last summer’s Democratic convention: He grouped himself with Bush, saying they were men who never served in Vietnam as though Bush’s course of action and Clinton’s were the same.
Anyway, the illustrious Rebecca Mead ends with this:
In conversation with reporters during her Middle East trip, Mrs. Bush said of the recent anti-American rioting and demonstrating in Muslim nations, “You can’t blame it all on Newsweek,” a comment rightly deemed newsworthy, given that the President’s official mouthpieces were doing just that. But she stopped short of saying the further truth: that you might blame at least some of it on her husband, the man under whose wing, protection, and cover the entire country currently quails.
Yes, yes, because Muslim radicals just loved the United States of America before Bush started fighting back. You remember how they showed it?
And I’m not quailing, are you?
Finally, note this: “Mouthpieces” are spokesmen you hate.
I appreciated something Ben Bradlee Jr. wrote in the Boston Globe, in the wake of the Deep Throat revelation. (This Bradlee is the son of the old Washington Post editor, of course.) He wrote, “The unmasking of ‘Deep Throat’ as W. Mark Felt . . . represents a significant, timely victory for the embattled press . . .”
I loved that, because it makes the press appear a kind of party and it is. I mean, my fellow NR-niks and I are part of the press, and we’re not embattled (except in the sense that one is always embattled). But the liberal media certainly.
Yesterday, in Manhattan, I saw the most extraordinary billboard. It showed Wayne Gretzky, and it said, “Nice guys do finish first.” Underneath, it said, “Class & Grace. Pass it on.” I wondered what the billboard could be advertising, but it turned out it was advertising nothing (except class, grace, and niceness). The billboard is sponsored by the Foundation for a Better Life, and so are many others. The foundation’s website is here. Highly interesting.
Care for a little Mark Steyn? What a dumb question. Here he is on Canadian politics and scandals, in the Western Standard: “The minute an election’s declared, the CBC and the Toronto Star will come on side and we’ll stop getting features on Adscam and start getting in-depth investigations on Tory plans to bring back back-street abortions and mandatory readings of Leviticus in gay bath-houses.”
And here he is in The Spectator: “During the 1990s [the Republicans] had weak candidates Bob Dole but strong ideas. And it was the strong ideas that won them the House and Senate and state legislatures and governors’ mansions . . . The Dems kept destroying the party’s leaders Newt Gingrich, and the fellow who briefly succeeded him and it made no difference. Conservative values are the real star. It’s like Cats: sure, it’s a nice plus if you’ve got Elaine Paige or Bonnie Langford, but it’ll still run for 20 years even if no one’s heard of anyone in it.”
Could any other human being on the planet have written that?
Wanted to be sure you knew about Condi and guns. If she were to run for the GOP presidential nomination she’d have no problem on that score.
In a recent interview described here she spoke of what gun rights meant to blacks in the pre-civil-rights South. And she said, “I also don’t think we get to pick and choose from the Constitution. The Second Amendment is as important as the First Amendment.”
A reader living in Moscow sent me a photo from a rally in Azerbaijan, which showed a youth holding up a poster of President Bush with the words, “We Want Freedom.” The reader commented, “It’s good to remember whom people turn to when they’re desperate and it ain’t Kofi Annan.”
Had the privilege of attending my five-year-old niece’s ballet recital the other night at least it was a privilege to see her. And the other tots. The evening started out with little dancers, and pleasant music, and pleasant routines. Performing in this recital were pupils ranging from about three years of age, by the look of them, to about the end of high school. And as the evening progressed, the music got trashier, and the dancing got trashier, until it owed everything to MTV, if not the strip joint. I mean, that stage should have had a pole.
What the . . . ? Sometimes you read indignant articles about the sexualization of young people in magazines such as NR, but reading is one thing, and being smacked by evidence is another. What a depressing evening sort of soiling. Who’s more wicked than those who rob children of their innocence?
And the parents in that auditorium? They seemed to love every minute of it. Of course, you never know until you talk to them the fear of being a square is strong.
Chicagoland dear ones, are you joining us on the 23rd? I certainly hope so, if you can. (The dancing may be trashy but we’re adults.)
A little music criticism, from the Sun: For a review of Lorin Maazel and the New York Philharmonic, with the soprano Deborah Voigt, and for a review of a concert performance of South Pacific, starring Reba McEntire, in Carnegie Hall, please go here. For a review of the New York Philharmonic guest-conducted by David Robertson, with the violinist Gil Shaham, please go here. And for my annual season-highlights piece, please go here.
Remember Leon Askin, the actor who played Gen. Albert Burkhalter on Hogan’s Heroes? He died the other day, at 97. (An obit is here.) He was really Leo Aschkenasy, a Viennese, and, yes, his parents were killed in a Nazi concentration camp. Somehow, he made it out. In 1994, he re-established residence in Vienna, and kept working in cabaret there.
The actor who played a Nazi general in a sitcom, the son of Holocaust victims . . . The stories of life are not uninteresting.
Have a good weekend, y’all.